Real estate projects in Rajarhat face farmer resistance

One of the most interesting facets of the current paradigm of development is the transfer of land earmarked for industry to the hands of real estate developers for the creation of integrated cities and gated communities. Land is acquired at throwaway prices through coercion, murder, promises of rehabilitation and oncoming industrialisation, etc. and sold off at steep profits to huge real estate houses. Some examples in Bengal include: Rajarhat, which has witnessed brutal acquisition over the last decade to transform into a IT hub, Hindmotors, where hundreds of acres are being sold to real estate companies like the Shriram Group, and Dankuni, which is being sold out to DLF. – Sanhati

Bengal IT hub runs into farmers’ roadblockThe Times of India

21 Oct 2008: Days after Ratan Tata shifted his Nano car plant from Singur to Sanand in Gujarat, Kolkata’s biggest IT project slated to come up on a 33 2-acre plot in Rajarhat has hit a roadblock.

Many farmers at Rajarhat’s Jagadishpur — the site identified for the Rs 1,500-crore IT project — have refused to give their land for the venture saying they have been shortchanged by the government.

“The state bought land from villagers for Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000 per cottah and is now selling it for Rs 1 to 2 lakh. They acquired land for industrialization and are setting up housing projects,” said one farmer, with others nodding in agreement.

The project was to be developed by Forum-ETA, a consortium of Rahul Saraf’s Forum Projects (Logo: Illuminating the journey of life) and Dubai-based Emirates Trading Agency (Logo: Built on trust). The firm is now worried that the project might lose its viability because of the delay.

“We submitted the first instalment of Rs 160 crore to the government more than a year back as part of the tender condition. The consortium is apprehensive of recurrence of a Singur-type agitation at Jagadishpur which would put a question mark on the project,” a Forum-ETA source said.

“It would be most unfortunate if the project doesn’t go through because, as part of the agreement with the government, Forum-ETA was supposed to return 160 acres to Webel after it had developed the land. Webel could have used this developed land to attract major IT firms from within India as well as abroad by offering them plots at attractive prices,” the source added.

On September 12, the North 24-Parganas district collector office had issued a notification, indicating that it would start acquiring 97.78 acres of land at Rajarhat’s Jagadishpur mouza for the proposed IT hub.

The notification mentioned objections against the acquisition should be sent to the district collector. “Most of the 3,000-odd farmers in Jagdishpur have agriculture as their only means of livelihood. The entire tract that the government plans to acquire is multi-crop and very fertile. We don’t know why it wants to grab this fertile land, when there are thousands of acres of barren land elsewhere,” said Durga Das Bagui, a retired headmaster.

“We’ll not give our land at any cost. We have already submitted our objection letters to the DM and the land reforms department,” said local gram panchayat member Moksed Ali Mandal.